Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Meet Walt

Check out this joker.

He’s got his brown corduroy jeans that for him qualify as “skinny jeans,” only a closer investigation reveals that they are only skin tight on him because they are at least two sizes too small —a thin crease line of a former hem circles his lower calf. Sitting in the classic angst pose of an elderly woman with severe spine curvature, his undersized gray shirt occasionally rides up three or four notches on his back; vertebrae punch his unsunned skin like childs’ fists. Under his wool driving cap we can imagine hair smooshed with product, made to look unwashed and carefully unconcerned. He aims for his look to project some state of maturation beyond the false Western notions of appearance and conformist society. Instead, he looks like a boy sent out by himself to the library, whose mom tousled his hair and teased him just this morning as he slurped at his bowl of cereal.

And wouldn’t his mom be so disappointed to catch him smoking? His Swisher Sweet cigarillo smoke wafts back towards his face and his eyes water. It could be grape flavored (they sell those), but grape may be too mainstream for our dear individualist. I bet it’s peach—his homage to a local industry and not a flavor commonly found in bubble gum. Peach smacks of more mature tastes.

And what of the book? I bet you can guess.

That’s right. Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Democratic ideals, rebellion from the core of stifling society’s expectations, flirtation with homoeroticism and some lines about nature and shit, all wrapped up in a paperback edition with waterstains and a missing front cover, pointedly demonstrating the owner’s commitment to used book stores over fascist chains.

While he uses his props, the book and the little cigar, other undergrads migrate around the GSU courtyard in downtown Atlanta with their own sets of props: cell phones, laptops, plastic bottles of Coke or Dasani (never Pepsi—we’re within a mile of World of Coke). Girls with the thinnest of straps on tank tops or flip flops catch our boy’s eye and he takes a long drag, then returns to the same page he’s been reading for ten minutes. Overhead, on the building across the street, a crew of window washers works their pulley system of buckets and brushes up and down, yelling back and forth to the crew on the ground, working men sounding their own barbaric yawps.

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